Bleeding gums is usually considered a dental problem, or a sign of gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal disease. So, if your gums bleed, your dentist may advise brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day. But a new study suggested that bleeding gums could also be a sign of vitamin C deficiency. Published in Nutrition Reviews, the study added that increasing your daily intake of vitamin C may helped reverse the problem.
If your gums bleed, see your dentist to find out if it is due to gingivitis, but you should also check your intake of vitamin C, said researchers from the University of Washington.
Vitamin C deficiency is one possible reason why your gums are bleeding, according to lead author Philippe Hujoel, a professor of oral health sciences in the UW School of Dentistry.
Bleeding gums: A problem associated low vitamin C levels in the bloodstream
For the study, Hujoel's team analyzed results of 15 clinical trials conducted in six countries, involving 1,140 predominantly healthy participants, and data of CDC's Health and Nutrition Examination Survey including 8,210 U.S. residents.
They found that some participants who experienced bleeding of the gums on gentle probing, or gingival bleeding tendency, or bleeding in the eye, or retinal haemorrhaging had low vitamin C levels in their bloodstream. Surprisingly, increasing their daily intake of vitamin C helped reverse these bleeding issues.
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However, Hujoel also noted that both a gum bleeding tendency and retinal bleeding could also indicate microvascular bleeding tendency in the brain, heart and kidneys. The study results do not imply that increasing vitamin C intake will prevent strokes or other serious health outcomes, he added.
But the findings do suggest that a low vitamin C intake can lead to a bleeding tendency, which could not be treated with brushing and flossing.
The researchers recommend people to check their vitamin C intake and try to incorporate non-processed foods such as kale, peppers or kiwis into your diet. If you can't find palatable vitamin C-rich foods, consider a vitamin C supplement of about 100 to 200 milligrams a day, they suggested.
Watch out for the other signs of Vitamin Cdeficiency
People on a low-carb diet, such as a paleo diet, may eliminate vitamin C-rich fruits such as kiwis or oranges from their diet as they are rich in sugar. This may lead to a low vitamin C intake and thereby an increased bleeding tendency, Hujoel said.
Also, your vitamin C intake may be low if you only eat lean meats and avoid offal, the vitamin-rich organ meats.
Poor diet, alcoholism, anorexia, severe mental illness, smoking and dialysis are the most common risk factors for vitamin C deficiency.
How would you know if you have vitamin C deficiency? Below are some of the most common signs and symptoms of vitamin C deficiency to watch out for:
Bumpy "chicken skin": Vitamin C deficiency can lead to keratosis pilaris, a skin condition that can cause formation of bumpy "chicken skin" on the back of the upper arms, thighs or buttocks. This happens due to a build-up of keratin protein inside the pores.
Corkscrew-Shaped Body Hair: Low vitamin C levels can also cause a defect in the protein structure of hair, making your hair grow in bent or coiled shapes. But corkscrew-shaped hair may not be easily noticeable, as the damaged hairs may break off or fall out.
Spoon-Shaped Fingernails with Red Spots or Lines: These could be signs of iron deficiency anaemia as well as vitamin C deficiency. Low vitamin C levels can weaken the blood vessels, which break easily. This could lead to appearance of red spots or vertical lines in the nail bed, also known as splinter haemorrhage.
Vitamin C deficiency can also cause bright red hair follicles, dry & damaged skin, easy bruising, slowly healing wounds, painful swollen joints, weak bones, poor immunity, fatigue and poor mood, and unexplained weight gain.